Studies from our laboratory using acute pharmacologic blockade of nitric oxide synthase (NOS) activity have suggested that nitric oxide (NO) has an important role in regulating carbohydrate metabolism. We now report on insulin sensitivity in mice with targeted disruptions in endothelial NOS (eNOS) and neuronal NOS (nNOS) genes compared with their wild-type (WT) counterparts. Mice underwent hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp studies after a 24-h fast, during an insulin infusion of 20 mU x kg(-1) x min(-1). Glucose levels were measured at baseline and every 10 min during the clamp. Insulin levels were measured at baseline and at the end of the clamp study. Glucose infusion rates (GIRs) during the last 30 min of the clamp study were in a steady state. Tritiated glucose infusion was used to measure rates of endogenous glucose output (EGO) both at baseline and during steady-state euglycemia. Glucose disposal rates (GDRs) were computed from the GIR and EGO. Fasting and steady-state glucose and insulin levels were comparable in the 3 groups of mice. No differences in fasting EGO were noted between the groups. GIR was significantly reduced (37%, P = 0.001) in the eNOS knockout (KO) mice compared with the WT mice, with values for the nNOS mice being intermediate. EGO was completely suppressed in the nNOS and WT mice during insulin infusion, but not in the eNOS mice. Even so, the eNOS mice displayed significantly reduced whole-body GDRs compared with those of the WT mice (82.67+/-10.77 vs. 103.67+/-3.47 mg x kg(-1) x min(-1), P = 0.03). eNOS KO mice are insulin resistant at the level of the liver and peripheral tissues, whereas the nNOS KO mice are insulin resistant only in the latter. These data indicate that NO plays a role in modulating insulin sensitivity and carbohydrate metabolism and that the eNOS isoform may play a dominant role relative to nNOS.